The Comet Knight
“Your deeds are unforgivable. You are guilty of murdering in anger. You are guilty of murdering while in a rational mind. You are guilty of the eradication of knowledge, and of stunting an integral scientific project. You are also guilty of supporting a dictator, with the intent to overthrow our governance. By order of the Minds of Pegagon, you are banished from our kingdom. You no longer have the right to orbit. May the Chance of Life bear the decision on your descent to the planet’s surface.”
The calculations were impossible for the knight to comprehend. If he landed in deep water, he might sink far down and starve while trying to walk up to the surface. If he landed on the wrong side of a mountain, or against bedrock, his armour wouldn’t hold him together. It would be wise to aim for a muddy river or a dense forest, but with the speed of the kingdom’s orbit, and the curve of the planet, he couldn’t anticipate the terrain he would fall upon. The choice of the moment was his. The Chance of Life meant that no other person could decide exactly when he would be free. It hardly mattered, looking at the planet unravel far below him. What mattered to him was what felt like a good time to let go. Brixon had always talked about faith in intuition, and she had survived freak events where most others were finished. When he was younger and more naive, he had doubted the validity of the seventh sense, but years of winning fights, and living ahead of death, had converted him to new beliefs.
His gloves embraced the frame of the door, as he spaced his feet to match his shoulder-width. The more he watched, the more he tried to judge what kind of land would appear over the horizon next. He wished he had studied the planet more. He wished he had removed himself from their politics. He wished he was banished via shuttle. He wished for another day to live. Stop looking, his childhood voice told his adult self, Stop trying to figure it out. He closed his eyes, yet in the darkness shades of red played about. Count to eight, then just do it. It was groundless advice for a groundless man, but just as likely to work out for him. One. It was all a matter of chance, a play with fate. Two. His sentence was already passed. Three. He couldn’t turn back. Four. He was already dead to his friends and enemies. Five. He had done it for them, with them, but only he was caught. Six.
His knees bent on their own, and his arms swam back, sending him forward. I thought I was going to jump on ‘eight’? What happened? The silence, which he thought he had within his helmet, was replaced with the deafening rhythm of his heavy breaths, and the fierce drumming of his accelerating heart. Brixon had once laid her hand on his chest, and he liked to think that she could feel him beating. His head looked up, at least whatever ‘up’ was to him then. It must have been forward. He couldn’t wait in darkness anymore, clueless and unexpecting. He opened his eyes to judge where he was heading, but he was heading into a field of cloud, and what lay beyond was still a mystery. Light buffs against his arms and legs told him that he was beginning to enter the atmosphere. As the prods became violent pushes, he had stiffened his joints and tried to glide like a proper knight. It was more than he had ever dreamed, and his face was hot and undoubtedly red from his straining. He hadn’t even punctured the highest clouds, yet fighting to stay in form felt unbearable. Stop trying to figure it out. When the thought had finished sinking, a new noise filled his head, taking over. It was the sound of his limbs flailing and clanking against the other parts of himself. The armour resonated the impacts as he flipped and flopped, end over end. Like a shaken puppet, he danced in chaos.
He couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing, as white blurred to black and back. There were flashes of bronze, like a wasp before his eyes, shining and darting beside the salted blackness. That must have been the kingdom out and away. He had never seen it so small, but even then he wasn’t really seeing it. He wanted to see it… one last time. Pushing out his legs and arms, as if he was reaching for his toes, he let his back fall in front. It was enough to slow his rotations, and his eyes caught and tracked his shrinking home. He only saw it as a bright dot, more golden under focus. Everything he had known, every soul, every room, every garden, every tower, every memory… It was all there, in a tiny dot, only a little larger than the stars alongside. Then the salted blackness burst into uniform white.
He had heard about seeing white light in the last. He then thought death might not be so brutal. It was not empty like he had expected. He was still thinking, How am I still thinking? There was an easy answer, and he felt foolish for not realizing that he had breached the clouds. Stop trying to figure it out. It was quite a ride, and he would only get to do it once. He might die any moment. Maybe the cloud went all the way to the surface, and he would see white until the end. The uncertainty was too much to ponder, and worrying never felt good to him. His inner-child knew better, was more in tune with intuition, and was ignorant to duty and fret. Enjoy this. If these are your last moments, you would rather be smiling. It was easy to follow his own advice. A few minutes ago, he was flopping about, getting disorientated and ill. Now he was flopping about, getting excited and thrilled.
The utter whiteness vanished as instantly as it had come. He broke through the bottom, and was bombarded with colors. Blue flashes, running between brown and green. Red and orange on one side of the horizon, facing off against teal and purple on another. There was such definition this close to the ground. He could see the fine lines of the world. He was told there were wide roads, colossal routes compared to the kingdom’s, but they were only strands of hair to him. He wanted to see more, and his desire was coming true. All things below him were being magnified. The details were always improving, expanding, refining. His attention was drawn to the dark green areas; they seemed so complex in detail. He wanted to be closer to them, and he reasoned they might be forests. He then remembered. He wanted to aim for them. His efforts to stabilize himself felt easier. He didn’t understand why, but he didn’t bother to. He stiffened again. His chest pointed the way. Gliding through the air was very different than gliding through space. He felt he had more control with the greater resistance. “No!” His own voice surprised him. He spoke before he knew. There were no more forests where he was heading.
Flakes of sheen flickered in contrast to the stable ground. The shiny spots dotted the surface in haphazard patterns. That’s where he would end the ride. It was water. Not lakes, not puddles, but pools. A few trees growing along them shared a brother growing within them. They must be shallow. Seven. He did enjoy himself. It was a beautiful tease. Eight. On instinct, the knight rolled himself over, and faced a blue morning sky scattered with wispy white. His landing sent up a great plume of water, signalling the end of his fall from grace.